September 16, 2020 – Wednesday
Luke 20:5-6 NIV
5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’
6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
In the two verses above, the Chief Priests and the teachers of the law, along with the elders are admitting defeat to one another. They are admitting, once again, Jesus had bested them in a verbal confrontation.
Only the day before Jesus had driven out the money changers in the temple courts declaring (19:46), It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers’ (quoting Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah &:11). And of course, they were indeed robbers, changing money at exorbitant rates, charging high rates for sacrifices sold with kickbacks coming to the Pharisees all the time. As a result when Jesus returned to the temple on this day, once again teaching and proclaiming the good news, the Chief priests and the teachers of the law, along with the elders confronted Jesus with a question meant to put an end to His teaching and maybe – hopefully – get Him stoned to death.
The question was in two parts, Tell us by what authority you are doing these things. Who gave you this authority? What is your authority and who gave it to you? They already knew He had claimed to be the son of God, but they wanted Him to say it inside the temple walls where they could declare it blasphemy. As to who gave Him ‘this authority’ they already knew even if they did not admit it. He was giving sight to the blind, healing cripples and the lame, and driving out demons, things which could only be done under the authority of God.
In reply, Jesus said He would answer on condition of them answering a question He posed to them in verse 4, Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? For some reason they accepted the challenge of His question. But then they had a problem as our verses for today point out. So, after their discussion, they answered, We don’t know where it was from. This permitted Jesus to then answer, Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
All these learned men and the best they could do after Jesus came into what they must have considered as ‘their territory’ the temple and drove out the money changers, was to ask Him a two part question they could not get Him to answer. The reason was they could not answer His question, because they were afraid of the people in the temple (for many of them had repented and been baptized by John) if they said John’s message was of human origin and they were afraid of His follow up question if they were to answer that John’s message was from heaven. The follow up question they expected and feared was Why didn’t you believe him? Jesus did not even have to ask this. He had so pricked their souls they knew the question that would come and it was one they desperately did not want to answer, Why didn’t you believe him?
The question they feared, Why didn’t you believe him if you believed his message was from heaven would have resulted in a series of other questions as well. Pett writes, They knew that if they said that John’s baptism was ‘from Heaven’ Jesus would ask why in that case they had not supported John more, and why they had not listened to him, and promulgated his baptism, and He would then also point out what John had said of Him, describing Him as greater than himself.
This was a lose-lose proposition for them. Jesus question probed even deeper, as none of them had repented of their sins and been baptized by John. In Matthew 3:7-10 John addressed them directly and said, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. They had no fruit because they had not repented, none of them.
The cause of all of this was their lack of belief. They had a faith of sorts, but it was more in the temple, their traditions, and their godly positions than in God. They were headed to the fire as John had said.